State senator/physician gets attention for injections, vote on compounding bill

A member of the Tennessee Senate was one of the doctors who injected patients with a spinal steroid at a Nashville outpatient clinic in the months immediately preceding a national fungal meningitis outbreak that took the lives of 16 Tennesseans.

Further from The Tennessean:

Sen. Steve Dickerson, R-Nashville, who is an anesthesiologist, administered injections of methylprednisolone acetate to several patients at the Saint Thomas Outpatient Neurosurgical Center a year ago, records obtained by The Tennessean show.

Months later, Dickerson voted in favor of a bill to ease Tennessee’s regulation of drug compounders. One such firm, the now-defunct New England Compounding Center in Massachusetts, is blamed for causing the outbreak by shipping fungus-tainted steroids to Tennessee and 22 other states.

Dickerson, through an aide, declined to respond to questions about his role at the clinic, which closed down voluntarily shortly before the outbreak became public. It has since reopened.

“As a practicing physician, and out of respect for the privacy of the patients involved locally and out of consideration for the patients involved nationwide, Dr. Dickerson cannot make any statements regarding the details of this matter that could distract from focusing on the well-being of the patients or regarding any of the legal claims against the NECC,” an aide wrote in an email response to questions.

Redacted patient treatment records obtained by The Tennessean show Dickerson was listed as the treating physician for two patients at the clinic in August and September of last year. The outpatient center shut down on Sept. 20, two days after a physician realized a possible link between her patient’s fungal meningitis and the steroid injections he had received at the clinic.
Dickerson has not been named as a defendant in any of the pending cases. The records do not indicate the source of the spinal steroid.

…Videotapes and other records show Dickerson was present and voted in favor of a bill passed earlier this year by the General Assembly that eliminates a requirement that pharmacists get a patient-specific prescription for every dose of a compounded drug.
The bill was approved on a unanimous 7-0 vote in late March by the Senate Health and Welfare Committee, of which Dickerson is a member. It was approved 27-1 by the full Senate on April 4 and signed into law by Gov. Bill Haslam on April 30. Dickerson was recorded as voting “yes” in the roll call.
While the measure had the support of the state pharmacists association, it drew criticism from advocacy groups.

Note: SB582 was sponsored by Sen. Ferrell Haile, R-Gallatin, and Rep. David Shepard, D-Dickson, both pharmacists. In brief Senate floor discussion, Haile declared the bill “has nothing to do with the situation that occurred out of Massachusetts that affected many of our people in Tennessee.” The legisltive website shows the Senate floor vote as 29-1 (with Sen. Todd Gardenhire casting the sole no vote). It passed the House 90-0.

UPDATE: The Tennessean reported Tuesday that Dickerson is named in court papers as the physician who injected a victim of the fungal meningitis outbreak with the tainted spinal steroid that led to her lengthy illness.

In a suit filed in U.S. District Court, attorneys for Joan M. Peay of Nashville wrote that Dr. Steven Dickerson, a member of the Tennessee Senate, was the one who injected her with the steroid. Dickerson, who is not named as a defendant in the case, injected Peay with contaminated methylprednisolone acetate on Sept. 7 of last year at the Saint Thomas Outpatient Neurosurgical Center, the 31-page complaint states.

Dickerson, a Nashville Republican serving his first term, has declined to respond to questions about his role at the neurosurgical center.

Note II: Betsy Phillips has thoughts upon the matter (basically, So What?)